“Bong Ban” in Florida Becomes Law July 1

Florida Governor Rick Scott recently signed a law that makes it illegal for persons to knowingly and willfully offer or sell any retail drug paraphernalia, aside from pipes comprised mostly of meerschaum, clay, briar or corn cob.
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This would mean sales of smoking devices made of glass, acrylic, stone or metal would be illegal.

The law, which takes effect July 1, will make headshop proprietors who sell marijuana pipes, bowls, bongs and the like guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. A second violation of the law is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The statute is an amendment to existing Florida Statute 893.147, which governs the use, possession, manufacturing, delivery, transportation, advertisement and/or retail sale of drug paraphernalia.

Still, our Fort Lauderdale drug crimes defense lawyers don’t anticipate a sweeping closure of these establishments anytime soon. The key language in Florida House Bill 0049 is “knowingly and willfully.”

As it stands already, stores that sell pipes are already highly regulated under Florida law. Only those stores that make 75 percent of their profits on tobacco products are permitted to also sell pipes, bongs and other smoking devices.

The “knowingly and willingly” clause of the statute means that the store retailer would have to know that you are using the smoking device expressly for the purposes of using illegal drugs. That means if a person never mentions using the device for the purposes of drug use, the seller would assume the intended purpose is to consume tobacco – which is still legal.

As one tobacco and gift shop owner put it, if a customer comes in talking about illegal substances and referencing the use of the device for that purpose, then the store would be breaking the law by selling a pipe or bong to that customer. Otherwise, though, it’s essentially business as usual.

Many stores may be able to get around liability on the issue by posting a warning sign at the entrance, noting that any reference made to illegal substances will result in their removal from the store. In a lot of places, that’s standard procedure anyway.

The new law is expected to be difficult to enforce. A similar law, struck down in an earlier legislative session, would have been much stricter. That was the reason many headshop operators supported this measure.

The action comes at a time when 70 percent of Floridians have said they would support more progressive marijuana laws, particularly those that would allow for the use and distribution of medical marijuana.

Still at this point, Florida law makes it illegal for anyone to consume or possess marijuana for any purposes, even if they have a valid marijuana prescription in another state.

As for drug paraphernalia laws, Florida Statute 893.147 makes it illegal for anyone to use or possess drug paraphernalia. A violation is a first-degree misdemeanor.

A pipe purchased from a tobacco shop wouldn’t necessarily be considered drug paraphernalia unless it was lined with illegal drug resin or if it was found in conjunction with illicit drugs or evidence of such substances.

If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Florida Bong Ban Approved By Rick Scott, June 18, 2013, Staff Report, The Huffington Post
More Blog Entries:
Florida Boating DUI Penalties as Harsh as Those on Land, June 6, 2013, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

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